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Channel Matters Blog > February 2011 > Changing partnership outcomes

Changing partnership outcomes

by Philip Moon
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Someone told me that one definition of madness is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. So it stands to reason if you want better business results through indirect channels partners you have to change partner behavior – and this doesn't happen overnight. How can this be achieved?

Set targets

One way to influence partner behavior is through the targets you set, just like when your managers set your targets it influences your behavior. If the target is seen as unreachable it can be de-motivating – and if it is too easy it won’t get the focus and attention you need. Targets should be perceived as challenging but achievable. However the most important thing to remember about partner sales targets is that if you want your partners to take some ownership over them the partner must be involved in setting them. We often say, “Man (or woman) owns that which he (or she) creates!”

Partners will respond to properly formulated goals that are aligned to what they are trying to achieve in their business, and that means you must invest time to understand the partner, how they make money, and their goals for their business.

Planning and review

When you plan with your partners, and then regularly follow up to see that the partner is doing what they said say they would do, it is much more likely that the partnership will be one in which both parties actually do what they plan to do. If you don't review your partners – you are teaching them to ignore you.

Programs, incentives and resources

Vendors also influence partner behavior through the partner programs and incentive schemes they offer to partners, and by controlling the allocation of resources to the channel such as special bid discounts, channel account manager time, or technical resources.

You are probably compensated through an incentive scheme too that comprises some positive rewards and potential sanctions - the “stick and carrot” approach. In effect you do the same to partners. Incentives, market development funds, partner awards etc.

Trust and attitude – the underlying behaviour drivers

So we have explored a few of the levers we can pull to influence partners.  But ultimately, if you take your hands off these levers of targets, incentives, plans, processes and resources, partners will behave according to their perception of the relationship they have with your company, and with you. In short, according to the degree of trust.

This is about the partners “attitude” to the vendor and therefore it is about establishing a sound partnering culture existing between the two organizations.  Attributes of sound partnering culture are discussed in some detail in the article Channel Centric Vendors found in “Best Practice Articles” section of the Partner Manager Resource Centre

Partners have their own sense of what they believe to be right or wrong and a perception of the vendor that is built up over time; as soon as you take your hands off the other behaviour influence levers their behaviour will revert to be consistent with this perception.

Attributes of trust

So let’s explore the attributes of trust a little more. Consider – to whom do you give your trust? Who do you not trust, and why? A couple of moment’s reflection will probably reveal that it takes time to change partner attitudes and trust.

On-going consistency and fairness in the rules of engagement are essential. Channel Enablers research shows that in general, if a vendor makes more than one of two significant changes within a year to the rules that compensate partners or manage your engagement with them, the partners will they start to take their money away from that vendor and focus their investment and resources in other areas. Partners must have this consistency before they will invest.

That’s why full compliance with well constructed Rules of Engagement is so important; partners have long memories and they take a long time to forget if they think a vendor has not dealt with them fairly or consistently according to published commitments.

Changing attitudes

Channel partner attitudes and behaviors can and do change over time; in fact they must change to remain consistent with the way the partner is behaving. So if partners are working with you consistently and productively over time, this will become the ‘norm’ of the relationship and the partner will expect it to continue that way.

There is a lot you can do to speed this process up. Mutual understanding, goal alignment, clear rules of engagement, engagement consistency, regular review of both plan execution and the partnering relationship, and trained channel sales people who know how to listen. All this helps build trust as both parties live up to their commitments and execute the action plans they have agreed to.

Last modified on 6/30/2013 10:10:29 PM
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